I spent yesterday on my own with a pitchfork trying to salvage hundreds of row feet of carrots. It's been very hot here. Like 90 degrees full sun. I had mentioned last week that the carrot tops where starting to get a little burned and it was probably time to clear the rows before they fried. It was noted but we're understaffed so... A week later and boy howdy, lots of steamed rubbery carrots. I'm sure the remay doesn't help either, it's probably at least 105 under the remay.
Here's the upshot though. The places where the weeds had run amok the carrots were their normal crispy delightful selves! They where the only places we got a sellable product! I had kinda expected this and had started the day talking to the boss and placing bets on whether weeds via their shading effects would benefit our crops or compete with them for water during this long dry hot spell. I'm glad to have been right. I won a free coffee (which I am disgusted to say I am drinking again. Damn early mornings).
I thought this was worth mentioning. My harvest time was increased by probably 20 percent or so (vs a clean row) but the yield was 100 % vs the 'clean' rows where the keepable carrots where probably around 5%. So, worth it. Plus that's time that was saved not weeding.
I've been experimenting around here with growing carrots and nettles together with great success. I think particularly with a deep taprooted crop such as carrots having a ground cover is more or less entirely beneficial. Even when this ground cover comes to tower about the carrot greens I have noticed no reduction in carrot size as compared to neatly weeded rows.
Point one for polyculture in hot dry conditions, even when its an accidental polyculture.
Anyhow, following this and thanks to my last 6 weeks of busting hump I got a 'we're really really happy with you, we can see you working here forever, if you want more hours you can work whenever and however many you want"
I think my plot for next year with the carrots, which I have a good chance of getting them to try out, is going to be something like:
Drill carrot seeds, wait six days, flame, wait two weeks, run through quick with hoes (I still think its important to give the carrots a leg up and not let them get swallowed young), Plant determinant bushing tomatoes @ 18" spacing between rows(nightshade and lambs quarters are the 2 main weeds) , Forget about them until harvest. I'd encourage other row croppers to try some similar experiments!
In short: Evaporation is a son-of-a-bitch and closed canopies rock!
In a comepletely different scale as a newbie gardener, I had much better success this year in getting seedlings of many sorts to a size where they could survive being planted out.This year for the first time I had a tall raised bed full of unruly tomatoes that took off very shortly after last frost. By snuggling my various seedling flats down among the jungle of tomato vines, the seedlings were protected from the harsh spring sunshine that has traditionaly parched, baked, or roasted 80% of my seedlings, but without the fatal downsides of difficult-to-sufficiently-vent cloches. My overall planting success SOARED.
Another trick is to run a sickle over the weeds when the slower plant starts to germinate. Will cut them back but keep some green growing, and not disturb the soil. After the plants are taller than 3"-6" I add mulch over the weeds and no more weeds.
"You mustn't be afraid to dream a little bigger..."
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